Military psychology is one of the 53 active divisions of the American Psychological Association (APA). This division encourages research and application of psychological aspects in military problems, and its members work in different scenarios. It involved research, human resources management, mental health services, teaching and consulting, Society for Military Psychology.

The Short History of Military Psychology

In its development, military psychology has an accelerated evolution. The beginnings of military psychology can be traced in the context of the First World War, where psychologists Yerkes, Cattell, Watson, Thorndike, among others, were commissioned to determine the role that psychology could play in the interests of support the US army.

It was at this time that the first application of large-scale psychological tests for the selection of military (Army alpha and beta) was made. Subsequently, in the context of the Second World War, the relationship between psychology and the military field is consolidated. It was on this date that the role of psychology within the military and its application does the work. It has some functions such as observation, performance, selection, training, adjustment to military life, social relations and propaganda

In addition to this, books referring to these themes begin to be published. After World War II and until the 1960s, military psychology takes a clinical orientation, especially in relation to the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. As of today, Military psychology has dealt with three major themes: propaganda, personnel selection and combat preparation.

Modern Military Psychology 

However, it can be said that nowadays, studies in military psychology are as varied as the same psychological discipline. For example, they can be found studies related to officer evaluation, stress management, psychological sequelae of military activity, suicide prevention, neuropsychological practice, substance abuse, negotiation in crisis, ethical dilemmas, and so on.

Military psychologists perform in various applied scenarios such as prevention, the use of technology, interventions, group therapies, brief psychotherapies, mental health, and primary care. They work with civilians, active military, retired military, reserve military, a family of the military and community in contact with the military in different contexts: battle, facilities, clinics and homes. 

The role of military psychologists has changed over the years. In the 1970s, its role was more oriented to leadership, training and selection. Over time, psychologists are now involved in the evaluation, counseling activities, and selection, not only of new recruits but of senior military personnel as well as civilians who work in these contexts.

What does a Military Psychologist do Specifically?

In addition to exercising armed forces’ fundamental specialty, they have other responsibilities depending on their destiny. Thus, they will participate in the life of their Units, which means that they must participate in the physical, social, and cultural activities carried out.

Military Psychologists, like any military, must pass tests that measure their psychophysical aptitude from time to time, must also perform military instruction and shooting practices, participate in different acts such as the festivities of each Unit, and in everything that is considered important. Military Psychologists are another member of the life of the Units.

There are currently Military Psychologists participating in the NATO support missions to Iraq and Lebanon (FINUL) belonging to the UN. As you can see, Military Psychology is very varied. This is because the Armed Forces are not only a profession but a way of life whose purpose is service to your country.

The Studies Involved in Military Psychology

Apart from posttraumatic stress disorder, there are other topics of interest around the issue of combat deployment operations from military psychology. For example, Adler et al. (2005) inquired about the perception of the welfare of soldiers according to gender; For this, 2114 men and 1225 women were interviewed about symptoms of post-traumatic stress and depression. 

It was found that participation in longer deployment operations or the first operations in their life history is related to higher scores in the symptomatology questionnaires. Inquiries have also been made of mental health problems associated with exposure to deployment operations. 

In this regard, Browne et. (2007) In a study with UK reservists who participated in the 2003 Iraq war. They found that reservists reported prolonged exposure to traumatic events. Low unit experiences difficulties in adapting when they returned home and low satisfaction with their partner.

Another type of study in the clinical area carried out with non-active military personnel. They are developed to understand the association between the variables of military service history and life satisfaction. For example, Britton, Ouimette and Bossarte (2012)conducted a study with 57,905 participants in which they investigated the level of life satisfaction in relation to having or not having a history of military service in the US army.

The authors found that men without symptoms of depression who provided some military service reported more satisfaction with life. Not only because of the benefits of attention after the battle period but also because they fought for their country. 

On the other hand, men with depression were less likely to report high satisfaction with life, even with a history of military service, which made the authors think that depression mitigates the positive effects of military enlistment. Such discoveries confirm the effects of war-related experiences on mood and their cognitive evaluations

Military Psychology Trends

One important trend of the clinical area in the military field is related to therapeutic or support actions, especially to the families of the military. For example, the research by Esposito-Smythers et al. (2011), who conducted a theoretical review and evidence-based treatments for the management of specific stress occurs to military personnelโ€™s wives and children. 

He found out that military wives present some specific risks as they must be empowered from home discipline, face the difficulties of their children herself, deal with household financial matters, and face the tensions and concerns of having a husband in an obviously dangerous situation.

Wives of deployed military officers reported feelings of loneliness, worry, sadness, anxiety, anger, headaches, eating problems, insomnia, nervousness, concentration difficulties and somatization disorders. In the evidence reviewed by the authors, a population group at risk of presenting emotional and behavioral problems is also identified. Furthermore, older adolescents should take care of their younger siblings, household responsibilities, and complete their normal academic responsibilities.

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